January 2016: When Is Intolerance OK?

January 2016 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

When Is Intolerance OK?

Monday, January 18, 2016
7 – 9 p.m.
Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

Is there a limit to Kumbaya? If participants in a discussion ignore facts (or invent them) and fail to respect the rights of others to speak, can they be told to shut up or leave? Do we refuse to tolerate intolerance or willful ignorance? Do we know it when we see or hear it? Is there a limit to Kumbaya? If participants in a discussion ignore facts (or invent them) and fail to respect the rights of others to speak, can they be told to shut up or leave? Do we refuse to tolerate intolerance or willful ignorance? Do we know it when we see or hear it?

Recently the city of St. Paul considered declaring Donald Trump persona non grata based on his remarks about Muslims, Mexicans, women, immigrants, and possibly everybody who has ever criticized him. The local American Civil Liberties Union claimed even the lesser action of censuring him violated free speech rights. Who drew the correct line in the sand? Should a major city contemplate a statement of contempt of a politician with significant support including among some St. Paulites or should the ACLU stifle itself for once? Do we know the answer?

In Paris staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine were murdered for their portrayals of Muhammad. While deploring violence, many Muslims resent mockery of their Prophet and religion. If similar ridicule of minorities or women took place, would the publication be guilty of hate speech? Does protected expression include blasphemy and targeting minority populations? What if it were a KKK magazine mocking blacks or an anti-Semitic one with caricatures of Jews? In Rwanda Hutu radio broadcasters advocated killing cockroaches as they termed minority Tutsis. Were they correctly prosecuted later for crimes against humanity?

Does meaningful communication require a fact checker? Is it true that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts? Can the two be separated? In discussing scientific issues what are facts and what is the current hypothesis which may be falsified tomorrow? If two research studies contradict each other, are we equipped to tell which, if either, to follow? Can we have real dialogue if we say certain assertions don’t have a basis in reality and can’t be expressed? But what if the naysayers influence school science curriculums or try to impede medical research?

Voltaire actually didn’t say, “I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right say it.” But as a defender of free expression, he should have. John Stuart Mill extolled the free market place of ideas where false ones would (hopefully) lose in competition with good ones. But does this mean the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooter is invited to a panel on reproductive rights versus right to life?  Does ISIL get to join a freedom of religion symposium? When Black Lives Matter is debated, do the individuals who shot protesters outside a Minneapolis police station have a say? What beliefs are so toxic that they are not entitled to a hearing?

On January 18 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action for Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will ask if we have to listen to everything. The agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality will set some limits on the volume if not the content of discussion. Everyone, please be nice! Remember treats will be served!

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